“In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon & Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.”
God’s word is full of runners! There’s the overjoyed father sprinting towards His rebellious son who has finally returned home; the prophet, Elijah, who tucked up his tunic and outran a chariot for 17 miles; the woman who raced from the empty tomb of Jesus to be the first to tell the world about the resurrected Savior.
Every race has a starting line, a path to be forged and a finish line. Some races are run at high speeds; others are walked out steadily on long dusty roads. That is where we find the story of Ruth, one of the most beautiful love stories of all time. However, it started with a difficult and awkward journey.
The story begins with Elimelek doing what he thought was right in his own eyes, during a temporary problem – a famine in the land. He moved his family out of Bethlehem, which means the “house of bread,” a place where God would provide and took them to Moab, essentially an enemy territory. It was a place where brutal, godless people lived. They lived there for 10 years. These were maturing years for their boys, who when grown, married two Moabite women, Ruth & Orpah [not Oprah!]. It was not long before Naomi’s husband and her two sons died, and left the women childless and destitute. Talk about difficult! Alone and penniless, Naomi made the decision to return home and her daughters-in-law followed.
Imagine the scene: three widows setting off together, walking down the desert road. As they start off, Naomi explains to the young women that she has nothing to offer, only a long, tough journey with no guarantees. She tells the young women to leave her and go back to Moab. Lots of tears and hugging ensue, until Orpah finally gets the hint and goes home.
But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”
Two little words change the whole story—“BUT RUTH!” Ruth “clings” to Naomi and won’t let go! She made a declaration of commitment without being invited. Talk about awkward! If I were Ruth’s friend, I would be telling her to get a clue. Naomi can’t even provide herself, never mind someone else.
Let’s face it, relationships can be awkward. You may find yourself in an awkward place as well – knowing you need other sisters in your life but you aren’t ready to make the commitment. Some of you are uncomfortable reaching across generational lines. It’s possible you’ve been hurt by the girls in your life that you trusted, maybe even church girls. You may not even be sure that you would take that chance again.
The truth is, relationships can be a lot like a bad haircut. We’ve all had one. It’s uncomfortable, embarrassing and hard to get over! But that doesn’t stop you from ever getting your hair cut again. Or what about the times you’ve had a bad restaurant experience. I bet you didn’t stop eating out. In my family that would mean starvation!
The bottom line is, you can’t give up on relationships or people just because you’ve been hurt. There’s too much at stake. Ruth’s destiny was tied to Naomi and to Naomi’s people—God’s people. And in the same way your destiny is deeply connected to the sisters that God has placed in your path. Girls that are there to run alongside you, cheer you on and coach you up. There are women in your circles that are just ahead of you in your race, and they can share wisdom and help you avoid mistakes that you were never intended to make.
Even though it can be uncomfortable, many times awkward starting lines will launch you into Amazing adventures. I invite you to make a declaration, like Ruth did, that will be the starting line of your amazing race. A starting line that put her on the path to her purpose – by committing to relationship with others and with God. This is your opportunity to reach your full potential, which you would never reach by running alone. You will never be the YOU God created you to be unless you experience the intimacy that comes from community.
Are you ready to step into your “awkward to amazing” race? It may not be easy, but I promise it will be worth it!